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Mickelson routs Woods, rest of field at Pebble Beach

By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times –

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Whether it was the 38-foot par putt that Phil Mickelson pounded in just after Tiger Woods had gotten everyone revved up with a birdie or Mickelson’s spectacular eagle three on the par-five sixth hole, or Mickelson’s sweet hug with wife Amy or her eagerly enthusiastic words, “What a round. Are you kidding me?” all the best moments Sunday belonged to Phil.

Mickelson, 40, who had started the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tied for fourth place and six shots out of the lead, surged to a day’s best of eight-under-par 64 to win his fourth Pebble Beach tournament and earn the 40th PGA Tour title of his career.

And what was supposed to be an enthralling head-to-head battle turned into a rout. Woods, paired with Mickelson in the second-to-last group, shot a 75 and finished tied for 15th, nine shots back, and never put pressure on Mickelson.

“It feels great to win this tournament,” Mickelson said. “I felt like my game was so close heading into the season and yet my scores hadn’t reflected how I felt I was playing.”

Charlie Wi, who had led after each of the first three rounds, finished second, two shots behind Mickelson, whose 269 total was 17 under par.

Wi double-bogeyed the first hole when he four-putted. “Starting off with a four-putt, that’s probably not very ideal,” said Wi, who seemed to keep his sense of humor.

Woods’ implosion was most notable on the final three holes of the front nine — he bogeyed them all and with each missed putt or poorly struck iron, Woods’ body talked more loudly than his game. His walk slowed, his shoulders hung limply, his face turned gloomy.

“What was frustrating,” Woods said, “is that I had a chance and all I had to do was get off to a good, solid start and I didn’t do that. I was one under par through six. Phil was five under.”

Because Mickelson jumped ahead of Woods so quickly and overwhelmingly, there was never much opportunity for the large gallery following the group to get involved.

The one time there was a roar heard even by the sea creatures in the Pacific came when the pair played the 12th hole and Woods sank his shot from the bunker for a birdie. Mickelson was looking at a 38-foot par putt and there was an opportunity for a two-shot swing, one that would have brought Woods to within three strokes of Mickelson.

But Mickelson stepped up to the putt and made it, saved the par and kept both a commanding lead and the psychological advantage.

After that it was a victory march for Mickelson, who had called his wife earlier in the week and told her to come because the weather was sunny and perfect.

That changed. Saturday and Sunday were more cloudy and cool, but Amy, who is recovering from breast cancer, gave Mickelson a pep talk after his first nine Friday at Monterey Peninsula.

“I was moping,” Mickelson said. “I was terrible. And she said, ‘Come on now, cheer up. She was so positive and it just changed my attitude.”

Amy said “moping” is a mom word that she uses with cranky children as well as a down-in-the-dumps husband. It worked.

By the time Mickelson sank a 40-foot par putt on the 15th hole Sunday, moping wasn’t an option.

“As each day passes,” Mickelson said, “I seem to make more and more putts.”

What did worry Mickelson was taking over the lead so early in the round. “The tough part about that is to stay aggressive,” he said. “There’s still a lot of holes left. The tough part was staying aggressive.”

Mickelson did.

Up next for him is a chance for his 14th win in California. Mickelson is in the field for the Northern Trust Open, which begins Thursday at Riviera Country Club.

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